'National disgrace': Troubling detail in Melbourne Cup horse death

Sam Goodwin
·Sports Editor
·4-min read
Anthony Van Dyck and Regal Monarch, pictured here at the Melbourne Cup.
Anthony Van Dyck (L) joined the likes of Regal Monarch (R) in dying on Melbourne Cup day. Image: Channel 10/AAP

Gerard Whately has decried the spate of international horses coming to Australia and dying at the Melbourne Cup, labelling it a “national disgrace”.

Anthony Van Dyck’s death in the race that stops the nation on Tuesday was the seventh time a horse has died on Cup day in the last eight years.

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Anthony Van Dyck joined Cliffsofmoher (2018), Regal Monarch (2016), Red Cadeaux (2015), Admire Rakti (2014), Araldo (2014) and Verema (2013) as recent casualties of the Cup.

Regal Monarch is the only horse who didn’t die after running in the actual Melbourne Cup, euthanised after a fall in Race 4 in 2016.

Troublingly, all seven horses were from overseas.

According to SEN radio host and Fox Sports commentator Whately, the recent spate of horse deaths can no longer be accepted.

“The death of English Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck is devastating. What you will hear in response are statistics justifying the low mortality rate in Victorian racing, and this is true, and you will hear how wonderfully cared for racehorses are, and this is true, but the truth when it comes to the Melbourne Cup is hard and cold,” Whateley wrote for the SEN website on Wednesday.

“There’s not a scientist or mathematician in the world that wouldn’t recognise this as a cluster. It’s as upsetting as it is confronting and it’s worse than that.

“29 horses arrived in Australia from overseas to contest this year’s Spring Carnival, three are dead and at least two others have suffered career-ending injuries. That’s a frightening toll.

“Dead horses were never part of the Melbourne Cup. If they were, the race would never have won its way into our national affection.

“So I want to be really clear about this and I will make no effort to disguise my anger and I will make no apology to those who will be affronted, the spate of deaths in recent Melbourne Cups is a national disgrace and is now beyond the point of crisis.”

CliffsofMoher, pictured here after being injured during the Melbourne Cup in 2018.
CliffsofMoher was injured and euthanised during the Melbourne Cup in 2018. (AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts)

Lloyd Williams says Werribee is the problem

The Aidan O’Brien stable also lost Wichita this spring after he fractured a leg at the Werribee training centre while preparing for a spring carnival bid.

Anthony Van Dyck’s owner Lloyd Williams suggested the troubles stem from the Werribee quarantine station, where international horses go after arriving in Australia.

“Werribee’s starting to be a problem, I think,” Williams told Sportsday radio on Tuesday.

“It’s showing up horses that might come to Werribee with little problems are going away with big problems. And we’ve seen a lot of that in the last five years, I suppose.

“It’s very sad, because we had a horse we owned that broke its shoulder in the Melbourne Cup three years ago and now this horse today. There’s been quite a lot of other horses lost as well.

“Whether you attribute that all to Werribee... horses could come out here from overseas with minor problems, and every horse that was going around in the Melbourne Cup today would have a minor problem.”

Regal Monarch, pictured here after falling in Race 4 on Melbourne Cup day in 2017.
Regal Monarch fell during Race 4 on Melbourne Cup day in 2017. (AAP Image/George Salpigtidis)

Racing Victoria to investigate latest Cup death

On Wednesday Racing Victoria officials said they will launch a thorough investigation into the death of Anthony Van Dyck once post mortem results on the horse are complete.

Jamie Stier, RV's executive general manager of integrity services, told Melbourne's RSN radio the horse’s death had cast a pall over Cup day.

RV conducted a review into Werribee following the demise of Cliffsofmoher and found the facility did not contribute to his injury.

Stier said Werribee hosted race meetings when it wasn’t being used as a quarantine facility and had not had a racing fatality for seven years.

RV has also improved its pre-testing requirements for international horses in a bid to identify and rule out any who could be at risk of injury.

“We've enhanced the pre-export requirements over in Europe and overseas generally regarding the suitability of the horses to travel,” Stier said.

“They had x-rays done before they came and the x-rays were thoroughly reviewed and as a consequence of that practice, along with the other requirements of videos and reports from stable vets and an independent regulatory vet, it did lead to one horse not travelling.”

Anthony Van Dyck, pictured here pulling up lame in the Melbourne Cup.
Anthony Van Dyck pulled up lame while running in the 2020 Melbourne Cup. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images for the VRC)

RECENT MELBOURNE CUP DEATHS

2013: Verema (France)

2014: Admire Rakti (Japan), Araldo (Great Britain)

2015: Red Cadeaux (Great Britain)

2017: Regal Monarch (Great Britain) - died in Race 4

2018: The Cliffsofmoher (Ireland)

2020: Anthony Van Dyck (Ireland)

with AAP

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